Nabokov said it best, in “Lolita”: “You can always count on a murderer for a fancy prose style.” The use of a quiet tone, along with eloquence of language, to address that which is splintered, or thorny, or otherwise difficult to process, is a practice of long literary standing. In poetry, too, meter can be used to accentuate the parts of a work that are the most difficult to understand or, in some cases, closest to the writer’s thoughts. In the case of “Mr. Tall,” Tony Earley’s first book in several years, the author shows worlds divided, upended, and in some cases completely broken apart. And yet the stories never lose their unearthly grace and calm.
Some of the tales overlap; the young couple of one story may be the elderly neighbors in another. This connection aside, the homes and relationships here are built and then torn asunder from the inside.